Peggy Shumaker’s Toucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica

These poems need to be read aloud. Jane Hirshfield, in a cover blurb, calls Toucan Nest, “a book of burnished, lapidary attention.” And it is. Each bird and bat is polished like a gem. The poems are dense with bright nouns, and repeated sounds. The lines in almost all of the poems are short, and short stanzas, too, leave white space as if the are images leap from the environs like birds from foliage. People crop up, too, guiding, pointing, speaking. I kept stopping to look up names and words (Gallo Pinto, bromeliad, trogon). If a poet’s job is to pay close attention (and it is), Peggy Shumaker here fulfills that role beautifully.

Here is one of the poems that I marked to reread:


Rain at Trogon Lodge 

Talamanca Mountain Highlands

Pura vida come purer,
bromeliads replenish
tiny lakes encrusted to their
calderas. Calla lilies
stiffen, sway.

Darting hummers, purple-
throated, green-winged,
whir feeder to fuchsia,
rafter to fig.
Drenched, the world

shimmers — pearls
along dark
soffits. Elastic

shape-shift —
puddle, fishpond,
cloud breath.
Iguana’s drink, our
moist souls’ scrim.

Peggy Shumaker, Toucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica (Red Hen Press, 2013)


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